Yesterday I watched Lakeview Terrace, again. This is the film starring Samuel L. Jackson as an LAPD officer who wants to drive out the interracial couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington from the neighbourhood.
Its amazing how certain nuances of the film jumped out at me the second time around. When Patrick's character says to Kerry's 'come on I am always taking shit off black guys because of our relationship', it really calls my attention. Here was a man, taking it in the stomach yet not feeling he could complain even to his wife who possibly is of the school of thought that white men are always ever the aggressor in any social interraction with black men. Indeed for the first half of the movie you do see Kerry trying to stick up for Samuels character even as her husband begins to detect that he hates the thought of them together. If the situation was reversed with Patrick's character disbelieving his black wife's claim about racism etc, it would be a big issue of which in real life the white man would possibly never live down!
However what stood out for me was the section when they are having this 'fight' across the fence with Samuel Jackson holding and wielding the electric saw at the couple. That bit was scary but I noted how Kerry's character was running in to 'rescue' her man and how Samuel's character picked on this and used that as a weapon, calling Patricks character '*8sy' and goading him by saying 'you want her to do the fighting for you' or words to that effect.
This particular part of the film reminded me of an incident that I witnessed last year. A young black girl was walking with what I can assume was her boyfriend, who looked part Asian, suddenly in broad daylight in the shoping mall, two black men accosted the couple. Before you could say 'jack' they were ready to beat the guy down. And as you may well all guess, the black girl ran in between to try and stop them. The girl kept saying 'No leave it, dont, leave it, lets go', to her companion.
I can only assume from how the girl was rushing to break up the situation, and how she said, 'No leave it', that the black men had said something nasty to the couple (as many bm seem to think they have a right to say as they of course should never be held to the same decency standards as everyone else) as they passed them and when the boyfreind responded to them, they set about trying to beat him up indeed to underscore how they, black men, are 'real men' and of course make him less than a man in the eyes of the girl.
The sad thing here is that by running to 'save her man' and stand in the middle, this black girl was still playing to the tune of the emasculation campaign, because women are not supposed to be saving their men from other men.
Black women cannot win for loosing in these situations because doing the sensible thing which is to try to break up the situation, would mean making him less than a man and I am very sure just like the Samuel Jackson character, such a meaning is not lost of many bm out there who provoke such situations to reinforce notions about how they are more men than any others and also to stir insecurities that 'the non black partner will never be the man in this relationship'.
I remember feeling very angry that day and I think, it was because I was picking up this subtext of the poor bw being in bind, a no win situation of which whatever she does would play into the undermining of her partner. I was also perplexed that many bm actually feel in this 21st century that it is their right to accost bw and non black men and say mean and hurtful things, the same group of men who would cry racism and victimisation if someone else did the same to them!
In the situation that unfolded I can see how the bw would immediately jump in to intervene. He could be seriously injured in a fight especially with two men but if she moves to break up the situation as she did it still looks like a woman having to defend a man who is not up to the job.
There is another thing there and that is that many bw even in such situations, would still have sympathies stationed with black men. Many still try to 'defend' and 'see with' bm. Many interpret bm's reactions as the response of those who are frustrated by racism, injustice (as if this excuses their direct hateful actions) and oppression, not as the deliberate activities of malicious 'brothas' who want to reassert their masculinity and ownership over others, even if others are hurt by their actions.
It is important for bw to realize that many black men who will confront you and your partner are aiming for his masculinity, either directly or by getting you to do it by launching yourself at the situaion!
Like Kerry Washingtons character in Lake View Terrace, many bw also cannot get out of the notion, that it is always the black man who needs defending or who becaue of having less social power than the white man cannot be the aggressor in any interraction with white men etc. But by reasoning thus, you are in essence allowing a situation where bm will be able to act with impunity against you and yours. Whether white or non black men have greater social agency, leverage or power than black men, does not mean that black men do not see when and how they can capitalize on notions of their powerlessness etc to afford them cover to deal their 'rivals' grievious blows!
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